Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Too much translation, bad for the nation - Says Ruth Kelly

The UK ‘Communities’ Secretary Ruth Kelly told the BBC's Politics Show that:

”I do think translation has been used too frequently and sometimes without thought added to the consequences.”

"So, for example, it's quite possible for someone to come here from Pakistan and elsewhere in the world and to find that materials are routinely translated into their mother tongue and therefore not have the incentive to learn English."

She pointed out that the evidence was that if someone did not begin to learn English within their first six months in the UK, they were never likely to learn it.

Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, predictably disagreed.

"If you do not provide that material for them to be aware of what's happening in the society or issues of particular help, they will remain sort of isolated.

"They will not really get the benefit, nor will they be able to contribute in a positive way".

The immediate thought that occurs is “No they probably won’t - but will they ever anyway? Not if they never bother to make any effort to acquire the language of the country they live in they won’t”

A BBC study showed that over £100,000,000 of public money was spent on translation services in the UK 2006. Apparently, in one instance, refuse collection guidelines – were translated into 15 languages - and one-to-one smoking sessions incurred costs because translation was provided.

Now I can understand that we may be obliged to provide translation, in certain Languages, in certain circumstances:

There is the Welsh Language Act 1993.

The UK is part of the EC. The business of the EC is generally conducted in English, French and German.

The full list of official EU Languages is: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

In criminal cases the UK is obliged in the interests natural justice to provide translation into any language, also under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I fail to see why the UK should be routinely providing translations for other languages, in other circumstances. Someone who can’t be bothered to learn the language is surely demonstrating a negative, or at best, zero commitment to their adopted country. If people can’t be bothered to help themselves in the most elementary way why should the State be obliged to take up the shortfall?

Why on earth waste public money providing translations for one-to-one smoking sessions for instance?

People who go to any country to reside there on a long term basis are stupid, or lazy, if they fail to make some effort to acquire the language. Even Tourists would be well served to learn a few basics such as; “please”, “thank you”, “how much?”, etc. It is a matter of sensible self interest if nothing else.

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